GAME STORY: Eula battles back from early deficit, holds off Westbrook late to earn state berth

SAN ANGELO — Playing the “comeback Cats” of Westbrook for a shot at the the Region II-1A title and a spot in the Class 1A state semifinals, Eula boys basketball coach Josh Fostel knew his team would be in for a fight.

Fortunately for Fostel and the maroon-clad fans at Angelo State University’s Junell Center on Saturday, the Pirates were up to the challenge.

Trailing at the end of each of the first three quarters, it was Eula that had to rally in this one. But the Pirates took the lead early in the final period and held off a late Westbrook run for a thrilling 52-51 victory.

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PREVIEW: No. 14 Westbrook, No. 15 Eula set to clash with trip to state tournament on line

With the No. 15 Eula Pirates and 14th-ranked Westbrook Wildcats set to face off in the Region II-1A championship game Saturday evening, the Big Country is guaranteed to have a representative in the Class 1A state semifinals next week.

The question is who that representative will be.  

On one hand, you have a Eula program that has been among the area’s most consistently successful, making four previous state tournament appearances, including a title run in 2011. On the other, you have an upstart Wildcats bunch that’s in the regional tournament for the first time since the 2001 WHS squad earned the only state tournament berth in program history.

Only one will still be playing after Saturday’s clash, which tips off at 7 p.m. at Angelo State University’s Junell Center, and both coaches are expecting a battle.

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GAME RECAP: Westbrook girls’ dream run ends with loss to No. 2 Nazareth in state semis

Photos by Mackenzie Teal, Press Pass Sports

WOLFFORTH — The Westbrook girls basketball team’s historic run came to an end Friday as the Lady Cats fell to Nazareth 48-17 in their state semifinal matchup at Frenship High School.

WHS, which was playing in the state tournament for the first time in school history, fell behind early and was never able to regroup against the No. 2 Swiftettes, who will go for their state record 25th state championship Wednesday against top-ranked Dodd City.

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GAME STORY: Lipan rallies twice to eliminate Cisco 59-52

GLEN ROSE — Two things worried Cisco coach Kevin Hearne heading into Friday’s Region II championship game with Lipan. First, the Indians’ ability to get 3-pointers from multiple sources. And secondly, their ability to quickly adjust on the fly to alter the course of a game. 

Both factors were on display at Tiger Arena as the Indians rallied from two separate deficits to eliminate the Loboes 59-52.

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GAME STORY: No. 2 Brock edges sixth-ranked Shallowater to earn 13th state tournament appearance

SAN ANGELO — After leading by as many as eight points in the first half of its Region I-3A championship game against Shallowater, the Brock boys basketball team saw its hopes of a 13th state tournament appearance come down to a late rally Friday at Angelo State University University’s Junell Center.

Trailing 44-40 with 2:34 remaining on the clock, the No. 2 Eagles closed the game on a 9-2 run, going 4 for 4 from the free-throw line in the final 2.4 seconds to sneak past the sixth-ranked Mustangs 49-46 and into the Class 3A state semifinals, where they’ll take on the winner of Dallas Madison and Tatum at a time, date and location to be determined.

The win avenged a 53-45 loss to Shallowater in last season’s region semifinals and put Brock back in the state semis for the sixth time since 2012.

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PREVIEW: Westbrook girls look to keep historic run going against state power Nazareth

Coming off an impressive run through the Region II-1A bracket that required wins over Highland (48-36), Roby (60-27), No. 8 May (45-33), No. 4 Veribest (54-45) and No. 12 Rankin (62-41), the 13th-ranked Westbrook Lady Cats enter the Class 1A state semifinals with an abundance of confidence.

And why shouldn’t they? They’ve won nine of their last 10 games to improve to 26-4 on the year, while claiming their first district title since 1980 and their first state tournament berth in program history.

But waiting on the other side of the curtain, as a result of and reward for all that achievement, is Westbrook’s biggest challenge to date — a matchup with the most successful girls basketball program the state of Texas has ever seen.

In the Nazareth Swiftettes, with whom the Lady Cats will tangle at 7 p.m. Friday at Wolfforth Frenship, WHS will not only bear the burden of facing the No. 2 team in the state, it also will be tasked with matching the poise and composure of a program that’s making its 30th trip to the state semifinals and is in search of its 25th state championship.

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EVAN REN: Cisco boys must clear difficult Lipan hurdle, Brock to get a second shot at Shallowater

The two largest boys programs still alive in Big Country Preps’ coverage area — Brock and Cisco — will both have their work cut out for them heading into this weekend’s regional finals. 

There’s no real surprise there. 

The cupcake tray was emptied four rounds ago and anyone you meet this late in the dance isn’t there by accident. 

Brock (28-2), our lone Class 3A team to retain a pulse, will square off with Shallowater in a rematch of last year’s 53-45 regional semifinal loss to the Mustangs. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. Friday at Angelo State University. Cisco, which is making its first appearance in a regional final since 1996, will tangle with perennial power Lipan in Glen Rose at 7 p.m. 

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GAME STORY: Westbrook survives Rankin pressure to earn first state tournament berth

Leading 19-9 at after one quarter in Tuesday’s Region II-1A title game with Rankin, Westbrook coach Jeff Bontrager had a difficult decision to make. 

Would he continue to allow his girls to take advantage of Rankin’s pressure defense, thereby taking the Lady Cats into a tempo for which they were entirely unaccustomed? Or would he slow things down a bit, hoping that his team could still find ways to score without turning the ball over?

Bontrager elected to adjust tempo and it paid off with a 62-41 win at Wylie High School. 

Bailey Connell scored a game-high 20 points and Madison Munoz added 10 more to lead Westbrook (26-4) which now advances to the state tournament for the first time in the history of the WHS girls program. 

Rankin closed its season at 28-2, led by Madison Jenkins with 15 and Emily Bunger with 14.

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GAME STORY: Brock dominates Abernathy, advances to regional finals

A 10-2 Brock run to open Tuesday’s Region I-3A semifinal with Abernathy set the tone for the entire evening in a dominating 75-33 win for the Eagles at Wylie High School. 

Nathan Jones poured in a game-high 25 points and Ty McCall added 16 more to lead Brock (28-3), which advances to face Shallowater in the regional title game at a site and time to be determined. 

Brock’s combination of an efficient inside-outside game offensively, coupled with sturdy defense, proved too much for Abernathy, which closed the season at 19-6. The Antelopes were led by Anthony White with nine points. Luke Houston and Seth Bender added six apiece.

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GAME STORY: No. 14 Westbrook boys rally again, knock off Rankin to earn II-1A title shot

MERKEL — After rallying from 21 points down in their Region II-1A quarterfinal win over Electra on Saturday, a seven-point third-quarter deficit was nothing for the Westbrook boys in Tuesday’s region semifinal matchup with Rankin.

Following a run of hot outside shooting by the 16th-ranked Red Devils over the middle two quarters, the No. 14 Wildcats calmly pulled within four points by the start of the fourth quarter and outlasted RHS in a tightly contested final period for a thrilling 70-63 victory at Merkel’s Badger Gym.

Westbrook, in the regional tournament for the first time since 2001, will now advance to the II-1A championship, where they’ll take on No. 15 Eula at a time, date and location to be determined with a spot in the Class 1A state tournament on the line.

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GAME STORY: Gray, Boles and Orozco lead Eula past Irion County, into Region II-1A finals

WINTERS — Tuesday night’s Region II-1A semifinal between Eula and Irion County was a tale of two halves, and it might’ve caused Pirates coach Josh Fostel to age a couple of years in the process.

The Pirates (20-9) jumped out to a 13-2 lead and never trailed in the first half despite withstanding runs of 7-0 and 15-2, before getting two big 3-pointers from Dakota Boles in the second half to earn a thrilling 47-46 win at Blizzard Gymnasium.

Boles’ two big shots came at the buzzer to end the third quarter and with 16 seconds remaining in the fourth as the Pirates advanced to face Westbrook in the regional final.

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GAME STORY: Huge fourth-quarter run fuels No. 12 Rankin past Hermleigh girls

For 20 of the 32 minutes in Monday’s Region II-1A semifinal game against Rankin, the youthful Hermleigh Lady Cardinals looked poised to knock off the No. 12 Lady Devils and continue their unlikely playoff run yet another round.

But leading 32-20 at the midway point of the third quarter, the Lady Cards’ youth got the better of them.

Led by seniors Emily Bunger, Jelcie Tubbs and Neveah Cura, Rankin closed the third quarter on a 7-2 run to pull back within seven by the start of the fourth , and Hermleigh could never stop the bleeding after that. The Lady Devils’ game-closing surge eventually reached 29-4 as RHS turned a 12-point deficit into a 49-36 win at Wylie’s Bulldog Gym.

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GAME STORY: No. 13 Westbrook girls take down fourth-ranked Veribest, earn spot in II-1A title game

The No. 13 Westbrook girls basketball team took a narrow lead early and held off fourth-ranked Veribest the rest of the way Monday to secure a 51-45 win in the first of two Region II-1A semifinal games at Wylie’s Bulldog Gym.

After pushing out to a 14-12 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Lady Cats never led by more than five points until the final period. But Westbrook (25-4) kept the defending region champion Lady Falcons from ever making a significant run and made their free throws down the stretch to earn a date with No. 12 Rankin at 8 p.m. Tuesday back at Bulldog Gym for the II-1A championship.

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CAPITAL FARM CREDIT/BCP PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Morrison takes home this week’s accolade

When one hears the name of Trace Morrison, the first thing that may come to mind among Big Country Sports fans is Stephenville’s utility man extraordinaire who earned All-Big Country Preps honors as a receiver, punter and place-kicker.

Well, you’ve got the right guy. You’ve just got the wrong sport this time around. 

As it turns out, Morrison is also one of the area’s top baseball players, as evidenced by him taking our Capital Farm Credit/Big Country Preps Player of the Week award for the week ending Feb. 27.

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